Susquehanna. Know how to pronounce it? \ˌsəs-kwə-ˈha-nə\ That's how. Good luck with that. While you're trying to work out the name that even the most illiterate south-central Pennsylvanian can say and spell, though they can't spell three letter words, let's start discussing my home state and why I can't see ever needing to find another setting for any story I'll ever write....
Let's start with the names. In my novel, Drew in Blue, the setting is the fictional Appalachian town of River's View, Pennsylvania. The fun geological fact about River's View is that there's no river in sight, but the name remains. Not such a far-fetched idea, when you consider the state I live in. We have some of the most unique names I've come across in my travels throughout the U.S.
Let's start with the dirty, because come on, it's me. I always go right for the dirty. The towns that lead you straight toward a fit of snickers and snorfles include:
I have to cite Paradise, because the running joke around here is a version of, "You have to go through Intercourse to get to Paradise." If you're feeling especially motivated, you can tweak the joke to include all of the above listed towns. And yes, I've been to each of them, or at least near enough to see the signs, so I can totally vouch for their existence.
You've also got your Bird-In-Hand, Balls Mills, and Bulger. A bit more of a stretch, but you can find the dirty if you try hard enough. On the non-dirty side, I recall K and I sitting around on the phone one night when she was counting down the days to her exit from Australia, trying to pronounce our weird Pennsylvania names for her. There was Wilkes Barre, Punxsutawney, Coudersport, Lackawaxen, Ligonier, and Tuckhannock. Just to name a few.
It's not just the town names. Pennsylvania is chock full of weird stories. We've got the vagrant who got carnal with some show goats at the York Fair and a guy who stole some goats from a farm only to shoot them when they rudely head-butted his car. Our most recent head-scratcher is the state trying to come out of the dark ages of hooch-sales by finally allowing wine to be sold in certain retail stores(The norm has been state-run liquor stores). We thought, we hoped, we prayed the time had finally come when we could run to the corner grocery and buy a bottle of Boone's Farm or a box of Franzia without having to trek to a government run outpost. Nope, not so easy. The wizards in Harrisburg, instead, have decided to fork over craploads of money towards installing WINE VENDING MACHINES in a select number of locations. Not only do we have to look forward to wine jams when the machines fail, but get this: You have to take a breathalyzer to complete the sale.
Pennsylvania is home to a rather infamous trial known as the Hex Murder Trial, involving pow-wow practitioners. In 1928, Nelson Rehmeyer was murdered because it was believed he cast a bad hex on one John Blymire. Rehmeyer was bludgeoned to death, then set on fire. Rehmeyer's Hollow is considered haunted, and I think every one of us raised in the area has visited the site on a hunt for ghosts and evil spirits. Mostly though, you just get run off the property by the cops.
A few years ago, two Amish men were involved in a drug ring that featured members of the Pagan motorcycle game. Their names? Abner Stolzfus and Abner Stolzfus. They were not related. You're not a Pennsylvanian if you consider that odd.
Centralia is a ghost town because of an underground mine fire that has burned since 1962. A smattering of old residents remain at last word. You can go to Centralia, but you might not be able to actually breathe.
For spookeriffic fun in the area I grew up in, you can go to a lot of places. Toad Road comes to mind, though it's actually called Trout Run Road now. That's where you'll find the Seven Gates of Hell. There's the requisite story of an insane asylum that burnt down to fuel the satanic mythos surrounding the area. You go into the woods and pass through the gates. If you make it to the seventh gate... well, who knows? Naturally, nobody ever makes it there.
In Lewisberry, you have a Gravity Road, where if you put your car in neutral at a certain intersection, your car will drift backwards up the hill you just descended. Story is that a school bus full of football players died at the dangerous cross-roads, and does whatever they can to save potential victims including pushing you from harm's way. Of course, the drifting uphill is just an optical illusion because you really aren't going uphill at all. Or aren't youuuuuu?
We've got a shoe house. Yes, it's actually shaped like a shoe. I don't know if an old lady lives there, though.
Really, this is only the tip of the iceberg. As you can see, I think, I'm surrounded by utterly bizarre, but endless sources of usable information. Why would I need to set my stories anywhere else?
Have your own crazy stories about the places you live? Share them, I could always use the laughs. And the inspiration!